As Cato Closes in on New England, FairPoint Struggles with Service Issues

Amy MasciolaPress Release, Service and Safety, StrikeLeave a Comment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, November 26
CONTACT: Amy Masciola, 202-285-6955, amy.masciola@gmail.com

Complaints from FairPoint customers have spiked since telecom company provoked 41-day-old strike

Some FairPoint customers in Maine have been without service since Nor’easter of November 2nd

FairPoint strikers say company’s attack on skilled workers is hurting region; workers calling for Fair Deal for New England

PRESS AVAILABILITY: One-on-one interviews with experienced FairPoint workers who can talk about weather-related issues that could stress service.

The winter storm approaching New England threatens to make existing service problems for FairPoint customers even worse. Forty-one days into the strike at FairPoint, the company’s replacement workers are struggling to maintain the telecom company’s northern New England network.

“FairPoint started this strike saying they had a contingency plan in place, but they’re failing our customers,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of System Council T-9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Complaints about FairPoint service have been mounting ever since the strike began on October 17. FairPoint, based in North Carolina, is the largest telecom provider in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

MAINE SERVICE PROBLEMS: In mid-November, Maine Public Advocate Tim Schneider said complaints to his office about FairPoint had spiked since the strike began. Schneider told the Bangor Daily News that his office may have received five calls a month about FairPoint before the strike. He said it was getting three to five calls a day since then.

VERMONT SERVICE PROBLEMS: Early last week, Vermont’s Department of Public Service reported that it had received 271 complaints from FairPoint customers since the strike began. That is a significant increase over the normal number of complaints, an agency official told Vermont Public Radio.

NEW HAMPSHIRE SERVICE PROBLEMS: Granite State media has filed multiple stories about FairPoint’s failing service and even criminal behavior by the company’s replacement workers. Dozens of FairPoint customers in New Hampshire have also reported service problems on a website maintained by the striking workers.

New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission has not yet released figures on the number of FairPoint-related complaints it has received in recent months. But IBEW Local 2320 of New Hampshire will file a formal request today asking that those numbers be made public.

“FairPoint hasn’t even recovered from the last major storm,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400. “We’re hearing daily reports of poles and lines still down all over our region. Their unqualified contractors just aren’t up to the job of maintaining our network during a New England winter.”

The FairPoint workers have been in contentious talks with the company for a new contract since April. In August, FairPoint officials abruptly ended negotiations and imposed proposals that slash all workers’ benefits, cut pay for most new employees by more than 20 percent, and make it easier to outsource good jobs to low-wage contractors. Before going on strike in October, the workers spent nearly two months trying to reopen talks with the company.

The workers have offered more than $200 million in cost-saving compromises during the talks. But the company has not altered its initial demand for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.